Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Abarat

Go To

Abarat is an as-yet unfinished Young Adult fantasy quintet (of which so far only the first three books have appeared: Abarat, Days of Magic, Nights of War, and Absolute Midnight—the intended sequel of which is tentatively titled "Kry Rising") written and illustrated by one Clive Barker.

Yes, that Clive Barker.

The books follow the adventures of a young woman named Candy Quackenbush. She hails from the small town of Chickentown, Minnesota, a tiny burg with a higher population of its eponymous fowl than people. She longs for something more than her small-town life, but doesn't know where to find it. One day, a strange compulsion grips her, and she races to the outskirts of town. There, she finds a strange man named John Mischief, whose brothers live as heads sprouting out of his impressive antlers, who is running from a strange, gaunt man named Shape. But through the powers of a magical lighthouse, she manages to summon a sea from nowhere—and from there, she is carted off to the Abarat. The Abarat is an archipelago where every island is an hour of the day, and it is full of strange, wonderful creatures. But sinister beings lurk in the shadows, and they have impure designs on Candy...

Perhaps the most noticable aspect of the books is that they are all lavishly illustrated by Clive Barker himself with hundreds of full-color paintings, on glossy paper. They're a visual trip as well as a mental one. While Vanilla Edition, non-illustrated print runs of the books have been made, the pictures are part of the fun.

This series provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Candy's father is abusive to everyone in the household.
    • Mater Motely makes him look like a saint in comparison due to the many horrible things she has done to her son and grandchildren.
  • Aerith and Bob: Often of the normal first name, strange last name variety like Candy Quackenbush, John Mischief (and all his brothers), and Christopher Carrion. Then there are just the strange ones, like Tropella and Izarith.
  • Ax-Crazy: Mater Motley. A vicious piece of work who unleashed an Eldritch Abomination in order to cause wanton chaos, death and destruction, killed her own grandchildren and sewed their souls into her dress so they would be in constant agony, and gleefully abused Christopher Carrion for no reason other than that's she's a sociopathic sadist and proud of it.
  • Alien Sky: Despite seeing the antlered John Mischief and his seven brothers, the fish-human Sea Skippers, and the summoning of the Sea of Izabella, it's the unrecognizable stars in the sky that really hits home for Candy that she's in another world.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Well, Abaratians, but still... it's justified since it's the Common Tongue, although there are some other languages.
  • And I Must Scream: The dolls that Mater Motley's dress are made out of are alive, and contain the souls of some of the many people she has murdered. Most of those souls belong to her own grandchildren.
  • Anti-Villain: Christopher Carrion. Played with, as his Character Development makes him swing wildly:
  • Apocalypse How: As of Absolute Midnight, at least a Class 0. Mater Motley releases the sacbrood, which blot out the Abarat's sky. The resulting darkness wakes a metric ton of Eldritch Abominations, which rampage unchecked over several of the islands. Thousands die. It's heavily implied over the course of the book that it's only going to get worse.
  • Artificial Human: Some of the stitchlings are fairly close. Also the Kid of Commexo.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Princess Boa. People rhapsodize about her in glowing terms, painting a picture of someone who was incredibly kind, gentle and loving. In Absolute Midnight, it turns out that it was a MASSIVE ruse on Boa's part.
  • Cats Are Mean: Subverted with the tarrie-cats; they're menacing-looking but otherwise perfectly civil.
  • Disney Villain Death: Subverted with Shape. He survives his fall, and his true death is at the hands of the Sacbrood in Book 2.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The second book is remarkably dark, grim, and frightening, but it ends on a fairly joyous and uplifting note. It's similar for Absolute Midnight.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: Rojo Pixler — who boasts nineteen thousand specimens from fleas to Kiefalent whales back at Commexo City.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Well, actually, it's Even the Gay Guys Want Her. It's outright stated that even Straight Gay Two-Toed Tom has a bit of a crush on Geneva Peachtree.
  • Evil Overlord: Christopher Carrion, ruler of Gorgossium, appears to be one during the first book, but later proves to be less evil than originally thought. Mater Motley, though, is a tyrant through and through, ruling over Gorgossium and later the rest of the Abarat with an iron-fisted reign of terror.
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: John Mischief does not harm Shape, and instead shoots the lighthouse light out. When Serpent asks him why he'd do this, he notes that he takes no pleasure in harming living things. And shooting out the light means Shape will have to follow them, leaving Candy safe.
  • Eye Scream: John Mischief's contribution in the battle with the sea dragon, before Nonce - he stabs it in the eye with a grappling hook.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: John Mischief actually carries an old-fashioned pistol, but generally Does Not Like Guns, so he uses it sparingly.
  • Freudian Excuse: Christopher Carrion's backstory. His entire family, except for his grandmother and absent father, died in a massive fire, he was brought up to be a perfect villain by his abusive grandmother who had sewn up his lips for saying the word love, fell in love with a princess who used and then shunned him...and his life didn't get better since then.
  • Friend to All Children: The blind card-reader at the start of book 3, AKA Zephario Carrion.
  • Great Big Book of Everything: Klepp's Almenak, though the Abaratians know you'd be wise to take everything Klepp writes with a grain of salt. It's good in a general sense, though.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: It turns out that Mater Motley is backed by the Nephauree.
  • Half-Human Hybrids: Lots and lots of them everywhere around—Izarith the part-Skizmut, the half-dragon priest Deetha Maas.
  • The Hecate Sisters: The Fantomaya. Mespa is the Maid, Joephi the Matron, and Diamanda the Hag.
  • Head Pet: Candy briefly has a squid as one. He dies of exposure, sadly.
  • Hufflepuff House: Many of the islands, other than the ones we spend the "most" time on.
  • Impossible Theft: John Mischief and his brothers managed to steal the tattoos of a criminal named Monkai-Monkai while he was in prison.
  • Instant Expert: Candy, who adapts quickly to Abarat. The strangeness of this is discussed—people from the Hereafter have gone mad from trying to adapt too quickly, since their imaginations couldn't handle the strangeness of Abarat. By comparison, not only is Candy still sane, despite being hunted by Christopher Carrion's minions, she displays an innate talent for magic. It's because she has Princess Boa's soul inside her.
  • Interspecies Romance: Several. Candy and Gazza, mostly shipteased Candy and Malingo. Princess Boa and Finnegan Hobb are this, too.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: Shape likes to use these to intimidate people, though they're more openly sinister than tunes from our world, having apparently been written by Card Carrying Villains. There are some innocent nursery tunes too, though. For example, the lullaby Zephario Carrion sung to his son, Christopher.
  • Lighthouse Point: In the middle of a field. In Minnesota. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Finnegan Hob's love for Princess Boa causes him to commit mass genocide against all dragons when a single dragon kills Boa.
  • Magitek: Most of the Pixler Company's inventions, the Sublime Verities.
  • The Man Behind the Man: In the second book, it seems like Mater Motley is the real Big Bad of the series and always was. Later, however, the story introduces the Nephauree, who have given Mater Motley the capabilities to conquer the Abarat.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Boa turns out to be quite a large one in Absolute Midnight.
  • Morality Pet: Maratien to Mater Motley in the third book. She's one of the few people who Motley's shown actual kindness and concern for, even more so than her own son ...and then she kills Maratien and sews her soul to her dress.
  • Multiple Head Case: The John brothers, who share a body, but different heads.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Mater Motley is far stronger and tougher than any woman her age — or any human, period — has any right to be.
  • Nightmare Fetishist:
    • Christopher Carrion, who even wears a glass collar for his embodied nightmares to swim in.
    • A mild case with Candy. She apparently got it from her grandmother, who loved to go to strangers' funerals.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Malingo gets one when Christopher Carrion invades his mind in order to keep him and his glyph from flying off with Candy.
  • The Place: The world that Candy goes to is called Abarat, the name of the first book and the series as a whole.
  • Place Beyond Time: The Twenty-Fifth Hour, which is always surrounded by a thick fog. Over the edge of the world.
  • Retired Monster: Zephario Carrion, who was a monster in his youth, but realized the error of his ways and became a fairly gentle old man.
  • Reluctant Psycho: Christopher Carrion is fully aware of how screwed up he is, and hates it.
  • Sadist: Mater Motley is a horrendous case. Everything she did, all the atrocities she committed were simply because she liked inflicting pain just as much as wanton murder and mass destruction.
  • Split at Birth: Inverted. Maybe. Princess Boa's spirit was reincarnated into a just-about-to-be-born Candy. However, prenatal Candy had a soul of her own. So Candy as an adolescent girl is referred to as the "Two in One," and realizes that "Candy" and "Princess Boa" are two halves of the same whole within her—hence, fused at birth. It's not exactly clear, just roll with it.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Carrion is of the more malicious sort. Gazza gets disturbingly close, too.
  • Straight Gay: Two-Toed Tom (who tells off John Serpent for an apparently bigoted comment) and his (thus far offstage) love interest Tidal Jim.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: The House of Midnight has spies everywhere. Everywhere.
  • Trapped in Another World: Candy gets transported to the Islands Of Abarat, a magical archipelago whose islands are based on an hour of the day.
  • Tyke Bomb: Christopher was explicitly designed to be one.
  • Vanilla Edition: There are two paperback editions of each book—one that has the pictures (and is still pretty expensive even by hardcover standards), and one that doesn't. Interestingly, the Vanilla Edition tends to get shelved in either the teen or adult section of most bookstores/libraries, while the regular ones tend to get shelved with the kid's stuff—Illustration Age Ghetto, perhaps?
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Kiss Curl Carlotti, eaten by the sea dragon.
  • Wicked Witch: Mater Motley is an ancient crone with terrible magical power and an even worse personality.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Christopher Carrion cemented by the happenings in Absolute Midnight.
  • Words Can Break My Bones: In the second book, Candy abruptly learns a specific word of power: "Jassassakya-Thüm". When she says it, it shakes or breaks whatever she focuses on (or if she is not focusing, everything around her). And it will keep shaking and breaking until she inhales it again. In fact, the longer the word is "loose", the stronger it gets.
  • Yandere: Christopher Carrion. After Princess Boa rejected him, he sent a dragon to kill her.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: Apparently, seeing the Nephauree's true form is so horrifying and traumatic it makes you want to stab out your own eyes. Mater Motley tried. It was a mistake.